The Google interview

Ok, I promised you a Google story and now Gabrielle is asleep and Chris went to school, so here it is.

Since we live far away (far enough), I requested to have a hotel near the Santa Monica office the night before my interview. The nice thing is that Google pays for all the traveling expenses for the interviewee, which is a somewhat standard thing to do if you reach this level in the tech industry. I joked with Chris that I felt like I was in a game show, I passed the first stage and won a free trip to (announcer voice) “Santa Monica, California!” and I’m still in the running for the grand prize.

We left Gabrielle with my mom Tuesday afternoon and arrived in Santa Monica around 4pm. Study or play? Study or play? I decided I had studied as much as I could and last minute prep would surely only stress me out (“wait, what is this again? I don’t know this! Ah, I’m not ready!”), we headed out. We walked by the beach (a few blocks away from the hotel), the third street promenade, and grabbed an early dinner at Xino.

Here’s Chris at dinner:

And me with my weird multi-level tan from Earth Day celebration weekend:

The restaurant was on the roof of the Kitson store, as you can see in the image below. The view was gorgeous, the weather was nice, I had  glass of wine, Chris had a beer, and we shared a wonton soup and a bunch of appetizers from the happy hour menu. We ate like crazy and it cost us $35, drinks included. Nice!

After dinner we went back to the hotel room to watch TV and relax. TV is something we rarely get to indulge in, but unfortunately the remote/TV at the hotel took FOREVER to switch one channel, on the magnitude of click-a-button-wait-20-seconds-oh-there’s-an-image-wait-20-seconds-oh-finally-sound-too-thanks. Everyone who’s seen me with a TV remote knows I’m a die hard channel flipper and this TV was driving me off the wall insane so we headed back out for dessert instead. I know, forced to eat dessert, it’s a damn shame.

We drove down Lincoln all the way to Marina Del Rey for cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. Nice view from the Cheesecake Factory patio, don’t you think?

Yeah, I could live there!

We were back at the hotel by 9pm and went straight to bed. I never expected to sleep well, but I passed out at 9:30pm and next thing I know it was 6:30am. Amazing! We ordered breakfast, I took a shower, reviewed my study notes, got dressed up. I knew Google was super casual but I think a certain level of formality portrays power and confidence if you can wear it well. To find a happy medium I mixed a nice black blouse and with a gray vest from New York & Company, same style but different color from this picture and minus the belt:

Except I paired it with nice jeans and clogs. Jeans! At an interview! I’m such a rebel.

I googled (ha, googled!) the way to the office, the hotel was not that far away so I decided to leave early and walk instead of drive. I left at 9:20am, arrived at the building at 9:35am and my interview was at 10am. Since I was pretty early, I sat outside for 10 minutes to kill time. At 9:45am I entered the building, presented myself at the receptionist in the lobby. Guess what, Google Santa Monica is split into 3 different buildings and I was at the WRONG building!!! The dumbest part is that I KNEW they had 3 buildings but I never even stopped to check which one they had instructed me to go to. I just blindly went to the one that appeared on Google Maps when you type “Google Santa Monica” without thinking twice about it. Wow, do you want to hire me now, I can’t even follow the simple instructions sent to me by email.

Heart attack moment: I’m on foot, I have 15 minutes until my interview starts, now where is the other building? The receptionist gave me the directions, it was a few blocks away. I walked fast and arrived with a few minutes to spare. PHEW! Crisis averted. I’m usually so prepared, attentive to details, I don’t ever get lost, so you can imagine I was quite embarassed! Plus, now I was starting out the day sweaty and stressed out, great!

First the recruiter showed me around the company. Google doesn’t believe in having very many offices, not even cubicles. It is a very open floor plan, they believe that it helps people work together as a group. They have lots of goofy decorations, certain area followed different themes. I read online before that Google was crafted to be the perfect place for kids, a bunch of grown up kids. Honestly, that description is dead on. They have the goofy decorations, lava lamps, a primary color scheme, game rooms and free food (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and everything in between). LOVE IT! The bathrooms were stocked with hand creams, dental floss, mouthwash, extra hairbands, anything you might need. I read some complaints online that Google gives you all these perks as some evil way to make you work long hours… Having worked long hours without those perks, I certainly would appreciate them. Nothing more annoying than having to leave work to get food when you are trying to make a deadline.

Anyway. I signed a non-disclosure agreement so I can’t describe the interviews, but I think it’s safe to say a little bit about the process. I had FIVE 45-minute one-on-one interviews and a lunch with one engineer. I was expecting the interviews to feel long and to be deadly exhausted by the last one. Instead, I was given really interesting problems and I actually had fun discussing/solving/coding it with the interviewer. All the interviewers were very nice. Their general motto is that the thought process is more important than the answer, so they don’t just give you a problem and say “solve it”, if you get stuck they don’t wait there and watch you suffer. It felt like a very natural flow, like I was just one person in their team.

Overall, my strategy was to always start out by mentioning the easiest most obvious (to me) non-efficient solution, then I worked outloud on finding a more efficient solution. On every problem it took me a good amount of time and a few hints to find the most optimal solution, but I found it myself (eventually!) and was able to code it. I suppose there’s smarter people out there who could have found the tricky optimal solution faster, but at the end of the day I felt happy with my performance considering it was an interview. No one does their best work during an interview, right?!

In the end, I am way more nervous now than before the interview! When the recruiter first contacted me weeks ago, I never imagined it would go anywhere. I mean, come on, it’s GOOGLE!!! Software engineer mecca, genius central. But by the end of the day Wednesday, I left feeling so positive. Looking rationally at my performance I would say I have a 50/50 chance. But by gut feeling, I just left feeling like I belong there, like I was already part of their team. Either the interviewers are really good at making you believe you they like you, or maybe I actually have a shot!

Now I wait. Every interviewer must submit a report, a hiring committee will review my whole application and call my references if they like me enough. Then if they still like me after that, I get an offer. The hiring committee review process can take up to 2 weeks. WAH, TWO WEEKS, ohmygodI’mgonnadieIneedtoknowNOW. I’m going nuts! Am I a shoe in, or do I not even stand a chance?! Who knows!

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